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What's In a Name? The Story of brentabl.

Updated: Aug 4, 2021

In 2009 at the ripe old age of 28 my wife and I purchased our first home. An absolutely perfect 4 bedroom townhouse in a wonderful neighborhood with great schools, a lake, playgrounds, and even 2 pools! It was the perfect place to raise our growing family and with a 5 month old, offered a considerable upgrade from our 1 bedroom apartment. The only downside was that the house (like all the others in the area) was built in 1971. While no immediate work was needed when we moved in, we resigned ourselves to the inevitable issues that would arise.

The first major project we decided to tackle, however, wasn’t an issue with the house at all. In fact, it was something we identified immediately upon touring the house as an upgrade we would make as soon as we could afford it - this house needed a deck! Now, the story of building the deck and all that it entailed is for another post on another day, but it’s also how this crazy idea to start a tool rental company was born.

I decided that in order to save some money and also invest a bit of sweat equity in my new home, I was going to do all of the designs and pull all of the permits myself (only hiring a contractor to do the framing work). In relatively short order I came to the conclusion that the only way this deck was going to work out was to place the footers and posts where there currently stood a concrete patio. This meant one thing - I needed a jack hammer.

As much fun as a jack hammer can be to operate, buying one was clearly out of the question. So like any good 20-something, I turned to Google and typed - “tool rental near me”. The first link to pop-up was Home Depot, so I clicked on it. As a technologist in 2011 I was aghast by what I found - a completely static page with a link (I’m not even kidding) to a scanned in PDF file with a price list. That’s it. No pictures. No ability to rent the tool online. No ability to even tell if they had the tool in stock. On top of that, I had to drive 20 minutes each way, wait in line at the rental counter, and then find a way of loading a jack hammer into a Toyota Rav4. This was going to be at least an hour of work to rent a tool to complete a 30 minute job. Still, it beat the heck out of using a sledge hammer or buying a $2,000 piece of equipment I’d never use again. Needless to say, I overcame the obstacles and got the job done, but even in 2011 this seemed unnecessarily difficult. The seeds of an idea were sown.

In the intervening years I rented quite a few tools to complete a variety of projects, many of which I’ll discuss at length in upcoming posts. While the tools themselves always got the job done the experience always left a lot to be desired. So, while a few things have changed in the last decade, the fundamental process of renting tools has basically been the same since the inception of the business. Very little has been done to actually make the process of renting a tool easier or more convenient; even less has been done to make the job itself easier and more convenient. brentabl is out to change all of that.

So why the name “brentabl”? Well for starters, the trademark attorney informed us that we were unlikely to be able to trademark “rentabl” because there is already a trademark for a similar (though not identical) name in the same business. That, coupled with a $5,000 price tag on the domain (gotta love the domain squatters) made it a pretty untenable option for a fledgling start-up. So after toying around with a variety of names, I came up with “brentabl”, which was derived from my dad’s name, Brent. Then what began as sort of a play on words morphed into a far more profound branding decision.

My dad spent nearly his entire life fixing things. He had an insatiable curiosity for how things worked. He began his career as an auto mechanic straight out of high school. From there he went on to work for the electric company repairing high-tension lines before settling at Xerox and spending the bulk of his career as a technician fixing copiers, printers, massive printing systems and then eventually even doing some network and PC diagnostics (the latter of which he hated with a passion). But beyond fixing things as a career, he fixed and built tons of things around the various homes we owned growing up. He once finished the entire interior of a modular home, built us a tree house, and even schlepped gravel into a hollow foundation to prep for the concrete floor. He built a deck on every house he ever owned that didn’t already have one.

In essence, my dad made fixing stuff look easy. There was literally nothing the guy couldn’t fix. It never seemed stressful to him - he knew that, eventually, with the right tools and a bit of sweat he could do it. And so this is really what brentabl is all about. It’s about making the job itself as easy as we can and helping our customers realize that with the right tools and a bit of guidance, you can do it. It’s “brentabl.”

Thanks for indulging us on our first ever blog post as we turn this crazy idea into a reality. Next week we’ll talk a bit more about building that deck, the challenges encountered and conquered, and the tools and techniques we learned along the way.

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